COLUMN: Keep moving forward, take the bad with the good
2018 was the most difficult year of my life.
Don't get me wrong, some really great things happened last year.
It was the year I found my passion in journalism. I was hired to be a reporter at Central Michigan Life and quickly realized how much I loved it. I spent the summer working as editor-in-chief. At the end of year, I was promoted to the managing editor. When it comes to my career, 2018 was the best year yet.
Of all the things that happened in 2018, one stands out significantly. During my summer working as editor-in-chief, I was contacted by a woman named Rachel Wilson. Rachel is a graduate student at Central Michigan University who told me her story about being sexually assaulted by a former student government association president.
When Rachel talked to me for the first time, she was scared. Each time she talked about the assault, and the two-year-long fight she put up to receive her day in court, I could see the toll it was taking on her. Her case was dismissed, at the last-minute, by the former acting county prosecutor. Working with her pushed me to keep going and share her story so her voice could finally be heard.
On Oct. 11, we published Rachel's story: "Breaking her silence: Graduate student Rachel Wilson shares her story of sexual assault, seeking justice."
Almost immediately, the story received a lot of feedback. It was viewed thousands of times – it was definitely read way more than any story I've ever written. Dozens of people reached out to me with praise. The university's president even organized a Title IX sexual assault advisory board in response.
Most importantly, Rachel's voice was finally heard.
I was originally scared she might receive a lot of negative responses on social media, but exactly the opposite happened. The day it was published, messages from other survivors and empathetic readers flooded her inbox, thanking her for sharing her story.
A week after the story was published, the Office of the Michigan Attorney General announced it would reinstate the charges in Rachel's case. Now, Rachel will have another opportunity to have her day in court, something I didn't think was possible when I wrote the story about her.
When I think about Rachel, the story and all of the other great things that happened last year, I feel incredibly happy and incredibly sad. It's bittersweet.
On Oct. 12, the day after Rachel's story was published, my grandma died.
My grandparents have played a huge role in my life. My grandma helped raise me for the first few years of my life. She took over that role when I moved in with my grandparents when I was 16 years old.
I've been close with my grandma my entire life, but she became one of my best friends after I began living with her. She is the person I went to for help whenever I was sad or lost. She was the person I went to celebrate with when something good happened. She taught me how to be a strong, independent woman and a kind, loving person.
I'm the person I am today because of her.
For the last three months of her life, my grandma laid in a hospital bed breathing through a respirator. When I wasn't busy with school, work or writing, I visited her in the hospital. It was difficult to watch her suffer and be in pain. It was just as hard to watch my grandpa watch his wife of 60 years suffer.
Because of the respirator tube in her throat, my grandma could really only talk to use by writing things down on a notepad. On one particularly tough day, as I was sitting next to her and trying to fight back tears, she tugged on my sleeve and showed me these words: "Write about this."
My grandma was always the biggest supporter of my writing and loved that I had found my passion in journalism. Although she couldn't tell me, I think she was trying to remind me that I would be strong enough to keep going, even without her. I think she was telling me not only to take the hardship of losing her and write about it, but to keep writing no matter what.
She reminded me that life will keep moving forward, and I needed to, too.
Grandma's death left a hole in me, and my family, that will never be filled. Although it casts a very dark cloud on all of the good things that happened last year, it doesn't discount them.
I'm sure everyone reading this has experienced loss in their lives, and the struggle of moving on afterwards. It can be confusing to be very happy, yet very sad at the same time. Please know you're not alone.
Keep writing, or playing a sport, or researching or whatever you do that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
Keep moving forward.